People & Business: Switch on, stump up for the great celestial football spectacular

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The Independent Online
Picture the scene: Tony Fraher of Singer & Friedlander, who is running the Alan Hansen-fronted football investment trust, is being interviewed by Japanese television for a documentary about the dawn of digital television.

The interviewer asks the ebullient Mr Fraher for his views on pay-per- view football. Mr Fraher replies that armchair fans should regard the planned electronic season ticket for such services as a "celestial turnstile".

Only investors can decide whether Mr Fraher's got his head in the clouds or if he's on a stairway to heaven.

The Man from the Pru is back - after being declared officially dead two years ago. The Prudential has woken up to the fact that, although it has not used the slogan about door-to-door salesmen in its advertising since 1978, an overwhelming majority of the public still think of the phrase first when the company is mentioned.

A new ad campaign kicks off this Friday with Sir Peter Davis, the company's portly chief executive, posing on television as "the man".

The company attempted to kill off the idea of residential collectors two years ago, when it declared that it was ending door-to-door collections for new business. Despite this, over 2,000 Pru collectors still quietly ply their trade on Britain's doorsteps.

"We want to get rid of the bike clips and trilby image, but keep the idea of the man from the Pru being friendly and helpful," a company spokesman says. "Now all 22,000 employees of the company will have to see themselves as the Man from the Pru. This will regain the confidence of the public in both the company and the industry.'' Brave words indeed, particularly for the female staff at the Pru.

The phrase was first coined in 1949 when the Illustrated Magazine ran a feature about a Mr Sawyer, a collector for the Pru who did his rounds in Hextable, Kent. The prospect of Sir Peter Davis pounding on my front door is certainly an intriguing one.

P&P, the computer services group named after co-founders Pete and Pam Fisher, is changing its moniker to Skillsgroup.

Has the company fallen out with the couple who launched the business, then? Pete Fisher still sits on the board and has a substantial stake in the business. "Not at all," says a Skillsgroup spokesperson. "We have three main brands, and the P&P brand now contributes only a third to company profits. We felt it was time to reflect this in the name of the company."

It still seems a bit odd. Companies usually change their name in an attempt to jettison associations with a less than successful past, whereas P&P's share price has risen from around 20p five years ago to 180p today.

Mr and Mrs Fisher launched the company in 1979 as a distributor of computers. They divorced in the late 1980s, and Pam Fisher went off to the US to run a graphics company. Pete, a former social worker, is still a non- executive director.

So Alan Shearer, the Newcastle striker who captains England against Italy at Wembley tonight, has signed up to promote Jaguar. The lucky sharpshooter gets a Jag XJ 4.0-litre saloon for his troubles. Commenting on the three- year agreement, the Tyneside maestro comments: "Jaguar represents for me the best of British." Strange, since it's owned by Ford of Detroit.

"I've also seen at first hand Jaguar's modern production lines and met their enthusiastic workforce," Mr Shearer adds. Until recently Jaguar's Coventry production lines were a byword for antiquity. Only since the unmentioned Americans intervened have things got better.

Yesterday's news that there are now over 80,000 millionaires in the UK did nothing for Keith Sharp's blood pressure. The journalist and author's fourth book, The Dreamer's Guide to Becoming a Millionaire, published 18 months ago, has done less well than his previous books, and sales are now plummeting.

"It's just incredible," fumes Mr Sharp. "I timed this book to coincide with the launch of the Lottery, but the number of copies sold has actually gone down over the last 10 months. I'd given up on the thing, then this report about a record number of millionaires comes out."

If any of you want to ease Mr Sharp's blood pressure, you can still buy the tome, published under the pseudonym James Matthison, for a mere pounds 5.95.